Answer the Call to Exceptional Leadership

answer call

Leading the Unleadable

Taking a management job is not the same as answering the call to exceptional leadership. That’s what Alan Willett’s new book is all about: how to create a culture where people are able to perform in an extraordinary way.

Often new managers think that those following them are unengaged, cynical, or otherwise difficult. And that can be true, but many of these symptoms are a result of the manager not knowing how to lead, how to challenge, how to create team-wide expectations.

Alan Willett offers practical ways for managers to take on these challenges. Alan is the president of Oxseeker, a leadership consultancy with clients ranging from Oracle to NASA. His new book is Leading the Unleadable. I recently asked him about his work on exceptional leadership.

 

“Exceptional leaders have a personal, passionate mission that goes beyond results.” –Alan Willett

 

Set the Right Expectations

There are so many aspects of your book to discuss, but I want to focus on expectations. How important is the leader’s expectations?

It is amazing how even people that seem “defiant” are working to meet the expectations of the leader. When leaders are setting the wrong expectation it will have negative impacts – and the leader can do this without even knowing it.

I have seen many leaders consistently tell their teams that they want the “most aggressive schedule possible.”  Of course the projects with the most aggressive schedule possible are invariably late. Along with being late, there are many negative aspects that can include quality problems and morale issues since team members feel they are failing. Many leaders who set these expectations later ask me, “Why are my teams always late?”

What the leader really wants in these situations is for the team to have the “smartest” plan possible and a commitment that the team can definitively meet or beat that plan. Setting those expectations correctly will get leaders who they really want.

 

“Exceptional leaders are fearless in setting expectations in clear language.” –Alan Willett

 

How a Leader Sets Goals

It seems that you can set the bar too low and not challenge the team or be “so positive” that you demotivate everyone. What’s the best way to set the goal appropriately?

Set clear motivating goals for the team, but also leave out some specifics, leave them a little vague. Then challenge the team to make it more specific and meaningful to them. In doing this the team members almost always grumble about the lack of precision. They then get to work to make the goals better. The team then creates the goals that are that high bar you refer to. Since the team set those specific goals, they are committed to achieving them.

 

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” –Pablo Picasso

 

I have worked this method with leaders over 300 times, and it never fails to inspire the team ownership and commitment. Leaders are often stunned at what the teams can really accomplish.

 

Expect Excellence Every Day

21 Inspirational Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Leader’s Vision

His voice is unmistakable. When I hear it, I am pulled in to the oratory, to the cadence, and mostly to the powerful message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

His inspiring, peaceful leadership in the face of hatred, racism, and bigotry makes him one of the most influential leaders in world history.

Today we celebrate his life and his achievements.

Here are some of his most famous, inspirational quotes.

 

MLK, Jr. Quotes

 

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“What matters is not how long you live…but how you live.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“The time is always right to do what is right.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Intelligence plus character: that is the goal of a true education.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.” –MLK, Jr.

The Top 10 Posts of 2016

2016 Top Posts by Skip Prichard

Unpredictable Results

Talk to any blogger and you will likely hear the same thing.  It is always a surprise to see what becomes popular.  I may work like crazy on something for hours, post it, and it may see very little traffic.  Something else ends up taking off, and it was almost a last minute thought.  You just can’t predict.

In putting together a list of popular posts, there are also so many ways to look at the data.  Do you measure purely by the traffic?  If you do it that way, doesn’t that give an unfair advantage to content posted in January?

After looking at the statistics, I decided to pick the top posts by traffic with a weight based on the date.  If a post was dated later in the year, it received a slightly higher weight to equal things out.

 

The Top 10: Did you miss one?

Here are the top 10 original posts:

3 Leadership Lessons from Santa Claus

Lesson from Santa: Let go of baggage weighing you down.

Don’t Get Hooked! Why Successful People Don’t Take the Bait

“Happiness can only be found if you free yourself of all other distractions.” -Saul Bellow

Why Leaders Must Deliver on Promises

“You are what you do, not what you say you will do.” CG Jung

Winners Give Just A Little Bit More

“A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.” –George Augustus Moore

What Do You See in the Clouds?

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” –Edgar Degas

3 Leadership Lessons from Santa Claus

Santa Claus Leadership Lessons

Leadership Lessons from Saint Nick

All year long he’s preparing for a single night.

Of course, he doesn’t do it alone. His faithful wife is by his side, a full partner in making Christmas a success. And the industrious elves are at work, focused, skilled, determined to meet the imposing deadlines. Oh yes, we can’t forget the reindeer, a critical part of his delivery team.

Christmas Eve is show time. There’s no room for excuses. It’s not possible to delay. Time waits for no man, not even Santa.

Santa’s leadership is fully on display on Christmas Eve.

1. Let go of the baggage weighing you down.

By the end of the night, everything is gone. He doesn’t hold on to anything. Every single bag is delivered, leaving him with an empty sleigh. Because of this, the year ahead offers unlimited opportunity, a fresh slate, a new outlook.

Are you holding on to baggage better left to the past?

 

Lesson from Santa: Let go of baggage weighing you down.

 

Lesson from Santa: Giving to others frees you up for new opportunities.

 

2. Remember the good and forget the bad.

Santa has kept a record. Sure, we know he supposedly sees the good and the bad, but no kid ever reports getting a bag of coal Christmas morning. I think he has an excellent memory for the good things, the kindnesses he sees, and he forgets a lot of the bad stuff. Santa focuses on the positive and uplifting.

Are you willing to overlook faults, forgive wrongs, and remember the best of people?

 

Lesson from Santa: Forget wrongs. Celebrate kindness.

 

Lesson from Santa: Focus on the positive.

 

How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership

gender based leadership

The Power of Diversity

It’s not just the right thing to do.

Diversity is organizational rocket fuel. It’s better decision-making. It’s better results.

I’m always studying what works, what doesn’t, and the latest thinking in this area.

That’s why Melissa Greenwell’s new book, Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership, got my attention. Melissa is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of national retailer The Finish Line, Inc. Her new book utilizes current research and demonstrates that more women in management equals better financial performance.

I reached out to her to talk about her research and her perspective. Her views are intriguing and offer a view worthy of discussion and consideration.

 

Study: more women in a group increases problem-solving and decision-making.

 

The Case for Gender Diversity 

For those who aren’t up to date on the latest research, tell us why gender balance is good for organizations. What’s the case for gender diversity?

Hardwiring in the brain is different for men and women. The physical differences are associated with natural tendencies in thinking, communicating, and problem solving that are all needed in business. Men and women demonstrate these traits in varying degrees. Organizations that have traits from both genders will get the best questioning, debate, and idea generation resulting in healthier strategies and increased performance over those who don’t. Those are the organizations that will create the best products and services for their customers.

 

Fact: Public companies with more than 1 woman on the Board have higher returns.

 

Why do some resist it?

I don’t believe people resist it. I believe leaders don’t know what to do to change it. That’s the biggest reason I wrote the book – to provide some actionable advice as to what leaders can do to effect change.  Others have brought awareness and that’s a good first step. Now we need to start doing the things that will lead to more gender diversity in leadership positions.

 

Study: Companies with no gender balance on the board have lower market capitalization.

 

You say that you wrote the book mainly for men in power because they can change the ratio. And then you say some “get it” and some “think about it.” What’s the difference?

I wrote the book mainly for people in positions of power – anyone who is in a senior leadership role can effect change faster. At this time, the vast majority of those people are men.  Of the male leaders I interviewed, I found that there are two main groups: those who “get it” and have been taking steps for several years to have more women in leadership, and those who are “thinking about it” – that is, they acknowledge that women are important to their business but are struggling to find ways to have more of them in senior leadership.  The biggest difference between these two groups of leaders is that those who have greater gender balance in their organizations have taken some very deliberate steps to get them there. They take more time to seek candidates and they reach outside their known network to find female candidates. They tend to take more risks on up-and-coming talent within their organizations as well.

 

Reasons Companies Fail to Keep Women

It’s not only recruiting but also retention that is important to changing the ratio. What are some of the reasons organizations fail to keep women?

Some organizations still refuse to implement the flexibility it takes to keep female talent. They still view creating flexibility as making exceptions rather than viewing it as a competitive advantage. They are busy counting hours instead of measuring results. Those that continue to think that way will fall behind in the war for the best talent.

 

What’s unconscious gender bias and how do you recognize and deal with it?

Unconscious gender bias is continuing to hire people who are just like us (male or female) and not even thinking about the ramifications of doing so. Little to no thought is being given to examining the gender balance of the team or organization when this continues to happen. The only way for it to change is for the top leader to set the tone and lead by example. Everyone follows the lead of the CEO or President, which in itself is far more important than implementing awareness initiatives.

 

Steps for Building Gender-Based Leadership